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Robin Israel

December 14, 2011

Improving Student Performance with Parent Involvement

Introduction
!eacher "ualit# is the school factor which ma$es the greatest impact on student achievement
and consistent e%posure to effective teachers can overcome obstacles to learning and even close
achievement gaps& '(lliance for )%cellent )ducation 200*+, !hese factors drove the development of
the -o .hild /eft 0ehind (ct '-./0+ that sought to ensure that teachers of core sub1ects are
considered highl# "ualified& and that poor and minorit# students are not taught b# ine%perienced or
un"ualified students at higher rates than other students, 2S3tudents in poorer high schools which
primaril# serve students of color are generall# taught b# lower4"ualit# teachers& '(lliance for )%cellent
)ducation 200*+,
-ow, with plent# of criticism of -./0 documented, new school reforms are being initiated,
and teachers continue to be held up as the main reason for low4performing schools, In 0arac$ 5bama6s
2010 !urnaround 7odel,& low4performing schools would be re"uired to replace the principal and at
least half the staff, as well as implement a new instructional program, In his !ransformational 7odel,&
teacher effectiveness and instructional strategies must be addressed '8art 2010+,
8earing an# of this has been disheartening for a teacher at a low4income, low4performing school
to hear, (t the school in which I wor$ed, *0 percent of the teachers were considered highl# "ualified&
in at least one sub1ect and generall# had master6s degrees, 9e were not teaching out of our sub1ect area,
9e were not considered ine%perienced, 5ur school had no librar# and we, the teachers, built one in a
spare conference room, on our own time and ac"uiring boo$s with our own resources, (s an )nglish,
writing, reading, and human rights teacher, I had to ac"uire the teaching materials for m# classroom out
of m# own poc$et, I generall# bought one boo$ and ma$e a lot of copies, surel# violating cop#right
laws, I was in the classroom for seven hours a da# and e%pected to do m# grading, planning and
preparation in the last hour, or at home on m# own time, It was an all4consuming 1ob,
(nd that is not even considering the demograph# of our school,
9e had a surprising number of homeless $ids, $ids who were separated from their families, and
families that were moving from wee$l# hotel to friends6 houses and bac$ to the hotel, Some $ids were
traveling on buses from other sides of town, traveling three hours to get to school and hoping to get a
ride from a friend bac$ home at the end of the da#, 9e had a lot of sleep# $ids, 9e had a lot of angr#
$ids, It6s hard for a $id to learn, or to even recall what he learned in the past, if he onl# ma$es it to
school once ever# wee$ or two,
!o continue hearing of how low4income schools get ineffective teachers, often characteri:ed in
the media as burnt4out and uncaring, and that is wh# the# wind up being low4performing schools as
well, seems entirel# inaccurate, ;et our school funding and our individual salaries were based on
attendance, graduation rates within a cohort, and how much students improved over the course of a
#ear, It was rare that we even had a student for an entire #ear, 9ell over a "uarter of incoming students
had alread# failed to graduate with their cohort and that was wh# the# attended our school, 9hen I
tal$ed with parents, the# e%pected little from their children<some were even frustrated that their $ids
were even tr#ing to graduate when the# could be wor$ing, 5verwhelmingl#, I noticed that $ids with
parents who wanted them to do well, who returned phone calls and insisted the# attend school dail#,
who attended school activities and parental involvement meetings, completed more wor$ and graduated
<sometimes the# even graduated earl#,
7# proposal, in this paper, is that parental actions and attitudes toward a child6s education will
impact the student6s school performance on standardi:ed testing, I will begin with a "uic$ literature
review and follow that with m# h#potheses based around parental actions and attitudes, (fter that set
there will be a description of the data set and variables used, !he methods and results will be presented
and the ma1or findings will demonstrate the overall relationship between parental choices and student
performance, !he concluding section discusses implications of the test results,
Literature Review
!he =,S, Department of )ducation considers parental involvement to be an integral component
of the -o .hild /eft 0ehind (ct, -./0 re"uires ever# school that receives !itle I funding to create, in
con1unction with parents of !itle I students, a parent involvement polic# that the parents must sign,
!hese schools must provide opportunities for parents and clear education for those parents about those
opportunities to participate in planning, review, and improvement of !itle I programs in the school,
!his must include attention to curriculum, assessments used b# the school to measure student
achievement, and proficienc# levels students are e%pected to meet, It also re"uires that parents are
offered regular opportunities to meet with teachers and participate in decisions about the education of
their children, Parents are also as$ed to sign a school4parent compact that outlines the school6s
responsibilit# to provide "ualit# education and the parents6 responsibilit# for supporting their child6s
learning including> monitoring attendance, homewor$ completion, and television watching?
volunteering at school? participating in decisions about their children@s education, the importance of
ongoing parent4teacher communication and observing classroom activities '9isconsin Department of
Public Instruction+, !here is a vast collection of school and district responsibilities that are intended to
encourage parent involvement in all these matters and more, ;et, in contrast to higher4income and
higher4performing schools in which teachers complain of parents who won6t leave them alone, it is rare
to find a parent in a low4income school who ta$es advantage of these opportunities, !he reasons for this
can var# for this lac$ of participation can var# widel#,
!he correlation is beginning to ma$e its wa# to the public, In -ovember 2011, The New York
Times Sunday Review featured an op4ed b# !homas Ariedman that began to "uestion wh# parents are
not being held accountable for student performance and demand that the government stop putting the
whole burden on teachers,& 8is column held up the ma1or findings from a stud# of the parents of
students who were ta$ing the Program for International Student (ssessment 'PIS(+, all of which
pointed to students with high scores having parents who were engaged in their education '0orgonovi
2011+, Ariedman e%plained that simpl# tal$ing to a child about his school da# and showing genuine
interest in the learning that the# are doing can have the same impact as hours of private tutoring&
'Ariedman 2011+,
It is also apparent that the wa# a parent chooses to be engaged with his or her child also has an
effect, !he methods of interaction that have the most impact seem to be parents ma$ing sure to learn
what their students are learning so that the# have the abilit# to tal$ about their child6s wor$ with the
child, as well as parents who are aware of the student6s plan and activel# help to guide them in choosing
classes that will be challenging to the child '.enter for Public )ducation 2011+,
!he (merican (cadem# of Pediatrics also see$s to address problems in school performance b#
as$ing parents to ta$e a step in becoming more engaged in their children6s education, 7ost children will
have trouble $eeping up with school at some point during their 1unior high and high school #ears,
!al$ing to the child about his or her school e%perience and in"uiring of problems should happen as
soon as trouble appears, before the damage to self4esteem is irreparable or a #oungster develops an
aversion to attending school& '200B+, )ven then, tal$ing to the child is not enough< 2a3dolescents
sometimes reveal sides of themselves at school that the# $eep under wraps at home,& so it is important
to get a teacher6s perspective on what is happening at school '(merican (cadem# of Pediatrics 200B+,
=,S, Secretar# of )ducation (rne Duncan admitted that the department has done a mediocre
1ob of supporting parental engagement, 9e have been too concerned with monitoring for compliance<
and not concerned enough with improving student learning and boosting meaningful famil#
engagement& '=,S, Department of )ducation 2010+, 8e blamed, in part, the long string of parental
involvement policies that have shown little evidence of raising student achievement, 9hile he seemed
to want to point out that it is onl# obvious that engaged parents bolster student learning, attendance, and
behavior, he also pointed out that !here is surprisingl# little research, however, to show what wor$s
and doesn6t wor$ in famil# engagement programs to accelerate student learning& '=,S, Department of
)ducation 2010+,
Hypotheses
Hypothesis 1: .hildren whose parents volunteer at their school will score higher on
standardi:ed achievement tests,
Hypothesis 2: Parents6 educational e%pectations for their child will positivel# affect the child6s
score on standardi:ed achievement tests,
Hypothesis 3: .hildren whose parents regularl# tal$ with them about their school e%perience
will score higher on standardi:ed achievement tests,
!hese h#potheses see$ to test three different $inds of parental involvement, defined b# Co#ce
)pstein of Cohns 8op$ins =niversit#> volunteering, learning at home, and communicating '.enter for
Public )ducation 2011+,
Data and Variables
!his stud# is based on data from the .hildren of Immigrants /ongitudinal Stud# 1DD14200E
conducted b# (le1andro Portes of Princeton =niversit# and RubFn G, Rumbaut of =niversit# of
.alifornia4Irvine, !he stud# was published b# the Inter4universit# .onsortium for Political and Social
Research, and accessed on their website, Aunders for this stud# were the Russell Sage Aoundation, the
(ndrew 9, 7ellon Aoundation, the Spencer Aoundation, and the -ational Science Aoundation,
!he purpose of this stud# was to loo$ at the adaptation process of the immigrant second
generation, which is defined as =nited States4born children with at least one foreign4born parent, 9ith
over EH0 variables, this surve# is one of the broadest available in addressing the factors that could
contribute to students@ success, Since children of immigrants represent one "uarter of all school4age
children who are low4income, defined b# eligibilit# for the -ational School /unch Program '.apps
2011+, this sample of children is a reasonable representation of a portion of the low4income school
population, !hese children are the unit of anal#sis to be studied, !he initial surve# was conducted using
face4to4face and paper and pencil interviews with a large sample of second4generation immigrant
children attending the Dth grade in public and private schools in 7iamiIAt, /auderdale, A/, and San
Diego, .(, !hat baseline surve# was ta$en in 1DD2 and the total sample si:e was H,2E2,
!he first follow4up surve# was conducted in 1DDH and surve#s roughl# corresponded with
students e%pected graduation date, !he purpose of this surve# was, among other things, to establish the
level of education attainment and language $nowledge, and to determine the proportion of children of
immigrants who dropped out before graduation, !his surve# was conducted with a smaller sample>
4,2** respondents were surve#ed<*1,H percent of the original sample, ( parent surve# of 2,442
parents was also conducted at this time so that characteristics of immigrant parents and families and
their outloo$s for the future could be established,
!he final follow4up was conducted from 2001 to 200B, 0ecause students were mostl# be#ond
secondar# and post4secondar# school ages and were alread# in the wor$force and living in thirt#
different states, these surve#s were conducted largel# b# mail, !his final follow4up retrieved B,E1B
complete or partial responses<E*,D percent of the original sample and *4,B percent of the first follow4
up,
Dependent Variable
Stanford .ombined Reading and 7ath44!he dependent variable is the combined math and
reading score of high school students in Aort /auderdale and 7iami, A/, and in San Diego, .(, !his is
a numeric, scaled score ranging from 041EBH 'DD
th
percentile+ that measures the student in relation to all
others who too$ the same test,
Independent Variables
ParentIspouse school volunteer<!his "uestion simpl# as$s if a parent volunteers at his or her
child6s school, !his is a nominal measurement of #es& recorded as 1, and no& recorded as 0,
Parent education e%pectation for .hild<!his "uestion as$s parents to identif# their e%pectation
for their students6 educational level and is recorded on an ordinal scale of 1 to 11, /evel 1 is )ighth
grade of less&, and level 11 is PhD,, 7,D,, or other advanced degree,& !his variable is designed to
measure to what degree a child fulfills his or her parents6 e%pectations,
ParentIspouse tal$ with .hild4school e%perience<!his "uestion as$s parents to identif# how
often the# tal$ with their child about his or her school e%perience, in general, !he parents ran$ their
conversations from 1 to 4> -ot at all,& Rarel#,& 5ccasionall#,& or Regularl#,&
Control Variables
Aive control variables were included in this anal#sis>
Parent4!eacher meeting attendance<Pervasive in our primar# and secondar# educational
culture is the assumption that regular parent4teacher communication is necessar# for student success,
!he surve# as$s, Do #ou or #our spouse regularl# meet or tal$ with #our child6s teachers about their
academicsJ& !his is a nominal measurement of #es& recorded as 1, and no& recorded as 0,
ParentIspouse4parentIteacher org<!his variable addresses another of )pstein6s t#pes of parental
involvement> decision4ma$ing '.enter for Public )ducation 2011+, It as$s if the parent participates in a
parent4teacher association, ;es& is recorded as 1, and no& is recorded as 0,
ParentIspouse tal$ with child4education plans<!his "uestion is intended to differentiate
between merel# tal$ing about school, as the Ariedman article does, and discussing educational matters,
!his, again, is a nominal measurement of #es& recorded as 1, and no& recorded as 0,
Rules47aintain Grades<!he "uestion as$s, specificall#, if a student is re"uired to maintain a
certain grade point average, but does not specif# what average in e%pected, ;es& is recorded as 1, and
no& is recorded as 0,
7otherIfemale guardian at home after school<( bit old4fashioned, but this "uestion can tell us
about how much time a parent spends with a child, !his variable s recorded on an ordinal scale of 0 to
4> -ever,& 9hen the child was #oung,& Rarel#,& Sometimes,& =suall#,&
Descriptive Statistics
Sample44!he table of descriptive statistics '!able 1+ reveals that completed data on this series of
surve#s was rare, as out of the total initial surve#s of H,2E2, so much data is missing that onl# about a
third of the sample is complete, =seable data has been reduced to 1D11 observations, 0ecause such a
large portion of the observations is missing, replacing that data with the mean would alter the findings,
especiall# in those variables with fewer than B000 observations, (dditionall#, even with the missing
data, the useable - is still a large enough sample to produce meaningful results,
Table 1: Descriptive Statistics
N Minimum Maximum Mean Std. Deviation
Stanford Combined Reading and Math !" .!! 1"#$.!! 1#$%.%&'& 11.1$(
)arent*spouse+school volunteer ((( ! 1 .1 .&(
)arent education expectation for child (1" 1 11 '.'1 1.&&
)arent*spouse tal, -*child+school experience (#1 1 #."& ."!"
)arent+Teacher meeting attendance ((' .!! 1.!! .%&! .!%1#
)arent*spouse+parent*teacher org ((1 ! 1 . .&"
)arent*spouse tal, -*child+education plans (## 1 #."' ."($
RulesMaintain.rades ((" .!! 1.!! .'$! .#"1&%
Mother*female guardian at home after school (($' 1 1.'# 1.1&#
/alid N 0list-ise1 1&11

Range and 7ean<In terms of minimum and ma%imum, the onl# interval variable is the Stanford
.ombined Reading and 7ath score, !he range is great> from 0 to 1EBH, !he mean, however, is much
closer to the ma%imum, revealing a negative s$ew and the presence of some outliers, In the data set,
there was a small handful of responses 'less than 20 in the entire sample of 440E for this variable+ with
combined scores between 0 and *00, !here could be several reasons for these scores> students ma# not
have had the language s$ills to complete the test, students ma# have been unable to complete the test
due to emergenc# or sic$ness, students ma# have refused to ta$e the test or did not understand the
importance of the test,
9hile ranges for independent and control variables were limited to the finite options offered,
mean did reveal a few things about these variables, 7ost parents e%pect their child to attend some level
of college and e%pect him or her to $eep a certain grade point average, 9hile a parent is generall# not
home when the child returns from school, the parents surve#ed tal$ with their children regularl# and
tend to ma$e it to parent4teacher conferences,
Methods and Results
(s indicated b# the P4value 'Sig,+ in table 2, the variables selected did have an effect on
students6 test scores,
Table (: 2N3/2
Model Sum of S4uares df Mean S4uare 5 Sig.
1 Regression 1(#&'.$(1 ' 1$&#1.!"$ (#.((1
.!!!
a
Residual 1("&!1%.& 1&!( ""%(.1
Total 1#&(&'""."$ 1&1!
!he findings in table B indicate that of all the items that the literature identifies as important,
two have no actual statistical significance in students6 standardi:ed test scores> tal$ing with the child
about his or her school e%perience or about his or her education plans 'P4values of ,*DB and ,422,
respectivel#+, !his means that h#pothesis B does not have evidence to support it,
!wo more that came up as significant are apparentl# not significant in the wa# that the# are
assumed to be, School4parent compacts usuall# re"uire that a parent meet with his or her child6s teacher
at least once per "uarter so that the parent can $eep up with the student6s progress and have an
understanding of what the child is wor$ing on, (ccording to these results, parents who regularl# attend
parent4teacher conferences, on average, score 12 points lower on the combined Reading and 7ath
Stanford (chievement !est 'p K 0,0H+, !he problem here ma# actuall# be that teachers have a tendenc#
to set up more meetings with parents of children who are struggling in school, So while this ma# be
accurate, it might point to a need for teachers to ma$e more consistent contact with parents of children
who are not in immediate trouble,
!he other variable that had an une%pected negative relationship with student test scores was in
maintaining grades, If a student is re"uired to $eep a certain grade point average, he or she, on average,
scores 1B points lower on the combined Reading and 7ath Stanford (chievement !est 'p K 0,0H+, !his
result could have something to do with the fact that the data does not specif# the GP( e%pected,
!herefore, if a student is e%pected to maintain a passing& GP( of a ., he is most li$el# to maintain a .
average, 9hereas a student who is e%pected to maintain an ( average, will have considerabl# higher
e%pectations for herself and wor$ to get there, !his data, however, is onl# measuring test scores against
whether a parent has set a GP( to maintain, (lternativel#, it could also reveal that students who are
e%pected to $eep a certain GP( become discouraged and begin to place less emphasis on grades
themselves, or that the# react to having such lines drawn and activel# choose not wor$ as hard,
Table #: Coefficients
a
Model 6nstandardi7ed Coefficients Standardi7ed Coefficients t Sig.
8 Std. 9rror 8eta
1 0Constant1 1(".$! 1$.!'" '#.'($ .!!!
)arent*spouse+school volunteer 1".&#& .#" .!&' #.'1& .!!!
)arent education expectation for child 1!.#%$ .&%% .(! 1!."(! .!!!
)arent*spouse tal, -*child+school
experience
+.$"' .(1# +.!! +.1#$ .'&#
)arent+Teacher meeting attendance +1(.(%( $.!# +.!$' +(.## .!1$
)arent*spouse+parent*teacher org &."#% .#%% .!$" (.(!( .!($
)arent*spouse tal, -*child+education
plans
#.1&" #.&%' .!(# .'!# .((
RulesMaintain.rades +1#.#!$ $.##$ +.!$" +(.& .!1#
Mother*female guardian at home after
school
#.%&' 1.$'# .!$# (.#&& .!1%
a. Dependent Variable: Stanford Combined Reading and Math
.hildren whose parents chose to be involved in decision4ma$ing activities, li$e a parent4teacher
association, on average, scored 10 points higher on the combined Reading and 7ath Stanford
(chievement !est than students whose parents were not involved in these activities 'p K 0,0H+,
(dditionall#, students who volunteered at the school regularl# scored, on average, almost 1L points
higher than students whose parents did not volunteer 'p K ,0H+, Surprisingl#, it appears that being
generall# involved in the school has more impact than being involved specificall# in the child6s
education,
.hildren who returned home to their mothers after school scored, on average, 4 points higher on
the standardi:ed Stanford .ombined Reading and 7ath (chievement !est for each step up the scale, 'p
K 0,0H+ Aor ever# higher level of education that a parent e%pects of his or her child, the child scores
appro%imatel# 10 points higher on the standardi:ed Stanford .ombined Reading and 7ath
(chievement !est 'p K 0,0H+, !his is also the variable with the single greatest impact tested here
'MN,240+,
!he goodness of fit is shown in table 4 in the (d1usted R S"uare& column, (ll these factors
combined e%plain appro%imatel# *,H percent of score variation on the standardi:ed Stanford .ombined
Reading and 7ath (chievement !est, 9hile this does not sound li$e a lot, we must also ta$e into
consideration what trul# had significance here and then place that in perspective of this percentage,
Table : Model Summar:
Model R R S4uare 2d;usted R S4uare Std. 9rror of the
9stimate
1
.(&'
a .!'& .!'$ '1."'#1&
a. Predictors: (Constant), Mother/female gardian at home after school, Parent/spose!school "olnteer, RlesMaintain#rades, Parent edcation e$pectation for
child, Parent/spose tal% &/child!edcation plans, Parent!'eacher meeting attendance, Parent/spose!parent/teacher org, Parent/spose tal% &/child!school
e$perience
Discussion and Conclusion
9hen Secretar# Duncan suggested that the parade of parent involvement policies& was not
creating meaningful engagement '=,S, Department of )ducation 2010+, he ma# have been on the right
trac$, though his assertion that there was no wa# to measure what wor$ed and what did not might be
contrasted here, !he results of the multiple regression above reveal important characteristics of what
ultimatel# has an effect on student performance and what does not,
If we loo$ collectivel# at the factors that did not affect student performance and those that
affected it negativel#, it is apparent that all these factors are ones that re"uire a parent to activel# in"uire
about a student6s activities, grades, feelings, and plans, It is counter4instinctual, 9e tend to thin$ that if
we are interested in the specifics, and we show our children this, the# will follow up with it, !he# will
understand we care and understand it matters, 9hat if this is not soJ 9hat if it is perceived as invasiveJ
(s micro4managingJ (s not trusting our child to be able to ma$e the right choicesJ 9hat if it is
actuall# not allowing the child to ma$e the right choicesJ
!hen loo$ at the items that were significant and did have impact, according to this stud#> high
educational e%pectations<but not GP( re"uirements? volunteering at school<but not sitting down in
an official meeting with teachers? being active in the P!( and ma$ing decisions that impact the whole
school and all students? being available after school, It is not 1ust stated that education is important, It is
about having a presence in the child6s life, both at home and at school, and living in such a wa# so as to
show that education is valuable to the parent,
( child understands what is important to his or her parent b# the parent6s actions, as well as a
parent6s words, 9hen this is clear and reinforced with regular activities and actions, a child can see
what he is wor$ing toward, 8e ma# not need to be told reminded constantl# with GP( chec$s and
in"uiries to the teacher about progress, If a strong sense of the value of education is instilled in him, he
ma# be li$el# to strive for it on his own and choose to live b# the same values,
Parents must $eep this in mind> simpl# living in a wa# that illustrates a value of education can
e%plain nearl# 10 percent of standardi:ed test score variation, !his change could ma$e a drastic change
in test performance rates of low4performing schools,
!r#ing to involve parents with a m#riad of policies will not ma$e a change until parents can
begin to understand the impact that education can have the lives of their children, 8ow can we ma$e
that happenJ Aurther policies can be initiated that support parents and children upon entering school<
at the time of the interview<a re"uired orientation of the value and impact education can have on a
child, no matter his economic bac$ground or his parents6 education level? clarif# the re"uired parenting
classes that help bolster a child6s school confidence and educational curiosit#? as$ parents to visit
classes with their children? set up home visits when a child is absent? assign decision4ma$ing roles to
parents, (s some schools re"uire tuition, others re"uire parent participation in school, If these practices
are begun when a child first enters school and maintained throughout as a re"uirement then parents ma#
understand that this activit# is a necessit#, not 1ust for wealth# people with e%tra time,
=nfortunatel#, there is no wa# to enforce it, 9hat would happen if a parent shir$ed his or her
responsibilit#J 9hat about m# low4income students whose parents were wor$ing two or three 1obs and
were still having trouble putting food on the table or were bus# moving to the third house in eight
wee$s<what if the# could not ma$e itJ 8ow do we trul# ma$e a change for our low4income studentsJ


9or$s .ited

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)ngagement,& Press release, H 7a# 2010, =,S, Department of )ducation, 2010,
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